Monday, February 11th, 2008

2G2K Circus :: I Got 5 On It

Ferentz leads off with a fine, necessary rant against Hillary and Barack over their focus on the fundraising arms race:

McCain and Mike Huckabee both ran their campaigns on shoestring budgets, and neither one is revered by “die hard conservatives.” Their campaign narratives exist in stark contrast to Obama and Clinton’s, which is littered with ostentatious fundraising boasts, ivy-league advisers, and high profile celebrity endorsements. What sense does it make for Obama supporters to pat ourselves on the back for raising 32million, or for Clinton supporters to fire back that they raised 7million in 24hours? How do they think these outrageous fundraising figures sound in light of the fact that 17,000 jobs were eliminated in January?

Ahem. Word. Forget the $400 haircuts.

Despite our pronouncements about free speech, campaign finance case law has firmly established that money is speech. Not even McCain, in his bipartisan work around campaign finance reform, has wanted to touch this third rail of moneyball, this sacred cow of modern politics.

Obama rightly calls attention to the fact that his campaign is based largely on small donors. Call it his “money of the masses” argument. But from the beginning, Obama’s fundraising skill marked him as the best-fit insurgent candidate, in the most Darwinian/Mobb Deep sense. In the long months before Iowa, money defined his competitiveness.

The problem isn’t now–it’s for the long run. Does his campaign actually raise the bar far too high for future insurgent candidates? Will the ridiculous, historic levels of money flowing through this primary season make future insurgencies impossible?

If Obama really wants to change the game, his gamble is a little crazy and not a little foolish: it’s a bet that his success is a leveling event strong enough to overturn the inertia of big money and open the field for a new generation of insurgent candidates. As Spongebob once said to Plankton, good luck with that. On the other hand, as long as the overwhelming majority of elected officials are willing to leave the “money is speech” doctrine unchallenged, he–and we–may not have had and may not now have any other choice but to roll.

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